Declaration on Rights of Serbs in Croatia Published

Total Croatia News

ZAGREB, February 19, 2018 – The Serb National Council (SNV) has released a document called the Declaration on the Rights of Serbs in Croatia, which notes that, over the past five years, the status of the Serb community in Croatia has not improved but has actually deteriorated in many ways and identifies 13 tasks in the fight for rights that are yet to be acquired and in the protection of those that have been acquired. The declaration was adopted at the SNV’s third assembly held in Zagreb last week.

The rights that have been restored are frequently challenged anew, and there have also been attempts to undermine the status of the Serb community ensured by international agreements such as the Erdut Agreement and the Letter of Intent, as well as the Constitution, the Constitutional Law on Ethnic Minorities’ Rights and other special laws, reads the declaration.

“That is why in the coming period we will continue to fight for rights that are yet to be acquired and work to preserve those that have been acquired. In these efforts, we should be joined by all democratic organisations because they constitute a fight for a democratic Croatia,” reads the document published on the SNV’s website. The SNV expects the government and state institutions to actively and closely cooperate with it in efforts to accomplish the goals stated in the declaration.

Activities of the SNV and other Serb organisations, notably the Joint Council of Municipalities (ZVO) and the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), will focus on the fight for tolerance and non-discrimination and particularly the fight against hate speech because hate speech against Serbs, their institutions and symbols of their identity “remains a problem that generates fear and leads to the assimilation of members of the Serb community.”

The second task is about ensuring an unobstructed return of refugees, with around 19,000 still staying in Serbia, and protecting their property and pension rights.

Efforts to shed light on the fate of Serbs gone missing or killed in the war, their identification and marking of their graves, as well as their unobstructed commemoration should yield more significant results in the next four years than has been the case so far, reads the SNV document.

The SNV also calls for fulfilling promises given after its second assembly held in 2013 that war crimes against Serbs committed during the war, notably during and in the aftermath of the operations “Flash” and “Storm”, would be prosecuted.

It calls on the state to “finally adopt a legislative framework for a development policy” for areas of return in the interest of all people living in those areas and to form, for the purpose of property protection, a forest and land management fund.

The SNV notes that Serbs are underrepresented in state and public services and expects the government and calls on it to stop that trend and start implementing, in line with the Constitutional Law on Ethnic Minorities’ Rights and its international obligations, a policy aimed at employing members of the Serb community, as well as “to again adopt and this time also implement an action plan for the employment of members of ethnic minorities.”

The SNV also expects that members of the Serb community in Croatia will be able to consistently exercise their guaranteed right to use their own language and script and be educated in their language, as well as that the legally guaranteed official use of the Serb language and script, including in the names of settlements, squares and streets and public institutions, will not be obstructed. It especially underlines the urgent need to enable the registration of Serb minority schools.

The SNV calls on the public broadcaster HRT to cover activities of Serb institutions and report on problems of the Serb community as well as to form a minority editorial board that will “include a Serb component”. It also calls for enabling Serb organisations to establish, with the help of the state, their own radio service.

The SNV further calls for continuing and stepping up the restoration of the cultural heritage, “notably the heritage that commemorates the forcible assimilation, expulsion and mass extermination of Serbs committed in the Independent State of Croatia” and their role in the antifascist struggle of the people of Croatia.

The tenth task stated by the SNV refers to the exercise of voting rights by members of the Serb community which, the SNV warns, is not in line with the Constitution “because it violates the secrecy of the voting process and results in segregation at polling stations.” The SNV therefore calls for passing regulations that will enable members of ethnic minorities to exercise their voting rights in a free and undisturbed way.

Serbs should be given back their right to their own history as part of Croatia’s national history and that should be visible in education, media, remembrance policies and museums, the SNV underlines.

“The institutions of the Serb community, notably the SNV and the ZVO, must be given the status of minority self-government bodies, in line with their founding documents…, the Erdut Agreement and the Letter of Intent. Also, the process of restitution of property belonging to the Serb Orthodox Church and the Serb business association ‘Privrednik’ must be completed as soon as possible,” the SNV says, underlining the importance of the lasting improvement of Croatia-Serbia relations and the European integration of all former Yugoslav countries, notably Serbia, as a precondition for stability and progress.

Commenting on the SNV’s document, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković told the HRT on Sunday evening: “They may send any demands they want, but the parliamentary majority will decide what’s right and what’s not.”

Public Administration Minister Lovro Kusščević told the Jutarnji List daily of Sunday that he was not familiar with the SNV’s demands, including one asking that institutions of the Serb community be given the status of minority self-government bodies, but he noted that local government representative bodies and executive authorities included members of ethnic minorities.

“In every municipality, town and county that requirement has been met and the Public Administration Ministry monitors this strictly,” Kuščević said, adding that it was based on inspections of the right of ethnic minorities to be represented in local government bodies that his ministry at the end of last year called additional elections in two local government units.


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